The 2003 China Fashion Week goes down in the record books as one of the nation's most alluring trade events.
During the event, which ended last week, every renowned Chinese designer who takes pride in his or her calling made use of the occasion to unveil sensational and striking creations for next spring/summer.
As the twice-yearly festival hit the town, a dazzling stream of designers, supermodels, make-up artists, writers, photographers, buyers, celebrities and jet-setters flocked to the Beijing Hotel and China Hotel, where some 30 shows were held.
In addition to the runway shows on the official calendar, a variety of showroom presentations, exhibitions and forums between the brands' CEOs and designers kept dedicated followers of fashion buzzing throughout the week.
Beijing's first fashion week in 1997 only featured three shows, said Wang Qing, president of the China Fashion Designers Association. But the event has since become a highlight on the country's fashion calendar with dozens of shows and parties this year.
"China is in the same position that Japan held about a decade ago," Wang said. "And it should become an equally important market."
The future looks bright - that was why so many well-known houses such as Christian Dior, Chanel, Celine, Leonard, Scherrer and Kenzo sent representatives this year, Wang said.
"Through six years of effort, fashion week has helped China establish a fashion industry from the home of mass clothes producing factories," he said.
But as for home-grown world-class fashion talent, international industry experts say China has a long way to go.
"It will take a long time to develop Chinese name brands. It's a long, long process," said French Fashion Federation President Didier Grumbach, who was the organizing committee's guest of honor for the week.
Hubert Barrere from Paris said the Chinese are "still making very basic ready-to-wear" clothing. He was invited by China's leading fur brand NE.Tiger to display his luxurious evening dress collection the day before the fashion week's official opening.
"China is looking for designers to supervise their collections, and that's why I (have been) invited by NE.Tiger to design evening dresses for the brand," Barrere said.
Barrere added that he has drawn inspiration from Chinese culture and would like to design for NE.Tiger in the future.
Beijing White Collar Fashion Co's label K.UU's designer Fu Kui made a big splash at the opening show to make a striking start for Chinese designers during the week.
The 32-year-old designer's show gathered 100 models who walked along the white marble balustrade against the background in the striking red color similar to that of the Forbidden City's walls.
He stuck to his recipe of blending the graceful and modern to create ready-to-wear outfits for women.
Six young Chinese designers also brought their creations after giving an impressive joint show in Paris in October, which was part of the year-long celebration of Chinese culture in France.
Each offered a collection for spring/summer 2004 rich in reference to traditional dress but with a modern spin, from the edgy street wear of Wu Xuekai to Liang Zi's refined elegance, illustrated by a crisp silk red mini-dress embroidered with a floral motif.
The irrepressible Wu, designer of Shanshan Group's label Firs and last year's winner of the Golden Crown - China's highest award for designers - returned to fashion week after a hectic and high profile year.
A highly commercial eye and strong design sense makes him a great influence on style. Entitled "Sound of Nature," Liang's collection was full of flower prints, embroidered butterflies and rosy striking peonies.
"The main idea is to express my love for life, health and happiness," said Liang.
Wang Hongying sent out a myriad of ensembles in yellow printed silk that conjured up images of glowing Chinese lanterns, while Gu Yi drew inspiration from Buddhist teachings for an understated collection in stone, moss green, black and brown.
Luo Zheng's sky blue silk floral print dresses and a mini-skirt of open fans were fresh and flirty. She designed a special T-stage with five big mirrors to show off the work. Through each of the mirrors, people saw the different sides of models.
Fang Ying offered a serene collection in green, grey, black and chocolate brown, creating texture with loads of appliques. Fang's inspiration came from ancient bronze ware, so she called her show "Past and Present." Fang won this year's Golden Crown.
The spring/summer calendar not only saw stellar shows by established designers from many of the country's leading brands such as Firs, White Collar, NE.Tiger and Mark Cheung, but an increase in new comers or student designers hoping to grab their chance.
Liu Wei from Shanshan Group's women's label Rose.W and Ji Wenbo from XDLong Sportswear Co Ltd are among the rising designers.
Colour, detail and femininity are the lynchpins of Liu's work. She offered light and very graceful colors from sombre brown and melancholy blue-grey to jade green and egg-yolk yellow. Fabric is also the key, from eye-catching prints to vintage-looking tweeds and rich velvets. Shapes softly flatter the body and delicate, sensuous evening wear is her forte.
Ji started his show with 12 models with the facial make-up and dress of Peking Opera performers, featuring a rich flavor of Chinese arts and culture.
And his motorcycle-style jackets were described as a marriage between sportswear and tailored clothing.
(China Daily December 5, 2003)